What happens when you take a shoebox, some pink and red construction paper, safety scissors, and some scotch tape or Elmer's glue? Your elementary school Valentine's Day mailbox, of course. This is just one of the ways Valentine's Day was different in elementary school in comparison to how it is now. That mailbox pretty much guaranteed you some Valentine's Day booty, which (sadly) might not be the case today. Ah, well. Can't win 'em all, right?
Though the history of Valentine's Day is actually rooted in the celebration of fertility, these days Valentine's Day can be wrought with the weight of expectations. What gift should you get your significant other? How can you rock the holiday when you're single? Everything seemed so much easier in elementary school when your biggest problems were deciding which Valentine's Day cards to buy (usually your favorite cartoon, like something Disney, or even the Berenstain Bears) and figuring out how to decorate your mailbox. Maybe you even brought festive cupcakes or cookies to share with your class.
If you had a crush or a "special friend" (as it were), you may have reserved a special Valentine just for them. It was also a great time to suck up to the teacher by showering him or her with flowers, and candy. These days, in the grown-up world, the outcome and expectations of Valentine's Day are much less clear. Who wouldn't want to go back to simpler times? Here are nine ways Valentine's Day was super different when we were kids versus now.
In elementary school, there was usually a designated time to pass out Valentine's Day cards. At my school, we had a party at the end of the of the day where everyone would walk around and stuff store-bought Valentine's into those homemade shoebox mailboxes while drinking soda and inhaling cupcakes. Since most schools required all kids to get a Valentine's Day card for everyone in the class, you were guaranteed to get a pile of swag.
This day was filled with anticipation of the end-of-the-day party. I was more interested in the baked goods versus the Valentines, but either way it was a chance to snicker with friends while getting hopped up on sugar. These days, the sugar is still there, but the shoebox mailbox chock full of paper hearts is, alas, not.
2Handwritten Notes from Your Crush
If you were really lucky, you might find a note from your crush stuffed into your Valentine's Day mailbox asking you to "go out." It usually included boxes for you to check for "yes" or "no." Perhaps you even passed one of these notes yourself.
With the advent of texting, this adorable tradition is all but extinct — but if you want to have a super romantic Valentine's Day now? I say bring back the note with the check boxes.
3The School Dance was Super Awkward
Going to a school dance in elementary school was pretty weird no matter what time of year it was. You're still in the phase where you might have seen other boys and girls as just friends, or you might have started to develop crushes.
Usually you asked one of your friends to ask your crush if he or she would dance with you. Then, if the answer was yes (oh, please let it be yes!), the two of you would stand about two feet apart, and sway in an unsteady circle.
You might have been too nervous to speak, or maybe you mumbled monosyllabic words to each other until the song was mercifully over, and you could wipe your sweaty hands on your shirt before backing away into the safety of your circle of friends.
4You Couldn't Wait to Grow Up and Have a Real Romance
When you were in elementary school, you couldn't wait to grow up so you could have a romantic Valentine's Day just like they showed on TV. This might include falling into a bed of rose petals, being taken out to a hot new restaurant, a night of dancing, a big box of chocolates, and of course lots of kissing.
And, if you watched soap operas, you were in real trouble! My friends and I were loyal to General Hospital, and we endlessly discussed when we would have our first soap opera kiss, because they kiss forever on soaps. How do they hold their breath that long? These were serious questions.
Um, yeah, no one told us this stuff is mostly a myth, causing most young girls to have unrealistic fantasies about how we should be treated on Valentine's Day. Everyone deserves to be showered with love on Feb. 14, but if your date forgets the limo, you might want to cut them a break.
5The Best Gift was A Ring Pop
The best Valentine's Day gift in elementary school was the gift of bling in the form of a Ring Pop. Ring Pops were a step above and beyond the generic Valentine's Day card, and if you were gifted with one, it was reason to celebrate.
But what did the Ring Pop mean? Did your crush want to make it official? Were they just being nice? Did someone get them for everyone in the class? The stress of figuring out the intentions could be exhausting. Luckily you could just eat the Ring Pop, and poof, the questions and all evidence of vanished.
6Nothing was More Romantic than a Mix Tape
If you were into music, or watched any movies in the '90s, you know that the mix tape was the ultimate sign of devotion. This was partially due to the sheer amount of time it took to make such a tape.
If your crush gave you a mixed tape on Valentine's Day, you probably started planning the wedding, because what else says "I love you" like handcrafted mix of your favorite tunes?
7Hearts, Hearts, and More Hearts
The best way to express love in elementary school was with hearts. Conversation hearts that you could eat, dotting your 'i's with hearts on all of your Valentine's Day cards, and school papers. Cutting hearts out of construction paper —anything involving hearts was how you expressed feelings of love, or just even feelings of like.
You may have even gotten one of those heart-shaped pendants. I personally hate these because the seem so unoriginal to me, but in elementary school a heart-shaped necklace from Claire's was a pretty good score.
And, I'll admit I carried the heart craze a little too far. When I broke up with a boyfriend in high school I told him I kept all of his notes in a heart-shaped box, you know, because of the Nirvana song. He was horrified because "Heart-Shaped Box" isn't a very flattering song, but I got my point across, with the help of hearts.
8You Made a Card for Your Parents
Usually, during that Valentine's Day party at school, you made a card for your parents out of construction paper, which you then presented them when you got home from school.
My mom still has one of these tacked up on the bulletin board in her craft room. It says something like, "Dear Mom, you are the best, and so pretty. Be my Valentine." Such poetry.
9You Took a Bite Out of Every Chocolate In the Box
If your mom or dad got a box of chocolates for Valentine's Day, you might have helped them eat it by taking a bite out of every piece of chocolate in the box.
For some reason, the Valentine's Day box of chocolates contained some really awful flavors. Kind of like they threw in a few good pieces then padded the rest with junk, similar to what happened when you bought a tape or CD after loving the single, and then sadly discovered that the rest of the album was just filler.
If your box of chocolates was really fancy it might even have an index flavor guide so you could avoid the pitfalls of biting into something horrifying like marzipan cream. Usually after a week the chocolate corpses left over got thrown in the trash.
Whatever you have planned this year, it's always fun to remember the simpler times when a candy heart and cartoon card were all you needed to feel loved and adored.